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It was a tense afternoon for the Los Alamos Hilltopper softball team, but Manuel Montaño managed to break it up a little bit.
Montaño, the manager of the Bernalillo Spartans, texted Los Alamos manager Roger Anaya after the conclusion of Bernalillo’s ballgame, one that the immediate future of the Hilltoppers hinged on as much as their game Wednesday.
“When coach texted me, he said, ‘we lost 3-1,’” Anaya said. “Then he said, ‘just kidding, we won.’”
With its win over Capital Wednesday and the Spartans win over the Santa Fe Demons, the Hilltoppers clinched the runner-up spot in District 2-4A on the final day of the regular season.
Los Alamos won its game big, earning a 16-1 victory at Overlook Park. That win, however, was expected. What was not so cut-and-dried was the Bernalillo-Santa Fe game played Wednesday in Bernalillo.
Going into that game, the Spartans were the top team in the district standings and Santa Fe was No. 2. The two teams split their doubleheader April 12 and the outcome of that contest was far from certain.
But now, with those wins, the Hilltoppers are almost assured of an at-large bid into the upcoming state playoffs.
The 2014 playoff field will be announced Sunday.
Prior to Wednesday’s games, Los Alamos’ prospects were iffy of making the postseason.
Los Alamos lost both ends of a doubleheader to Bernalillo April 19, which put Los Alamos firmly on the bubble for a playoff bid, but Los Alamos won its last four contests in a row to keep its hopes alive.
“After we lost that doubleheader to Bernalillo, we knew our backs were against the wall,” Anaya said. “We couldn’t get beat anymore. Once we were eliminated from first place, our next goal was to get second place.”
Among those final four wins was a big 3-1 win over the Demons in Santa Fe last week, which gave the Hilltoppers the season tiebreaker.
Against Capital, Los Alamos (14-12 overall, 8-4 in 2-4A) pounded out 10 hits in just three innings. Kiana Zerr finished the game 3-for-3 with a RBI and scored two runs, while Krysta Salazar was 2-for-3 with an inside-the-park home run.
In the pitching circle, Madeline Lockhart earned the victory. In the first varsity start of her career, Lockhart, a sophomore, struck out five batters in her three innings and allowed just the one run.
Los Alamos now has 10 days off before it would start the postseason. Anaya said he wants to scrimmage for the next several practices to keep his team as sharp as it has been down the stretch, particularly on the defensive side.
“We’re pleased with the way we finished,” Anaya said. “We didn’t have any errors today…we only had one in our last four games. That’s been big.”